Recent studies suggest that sitting at a desk all day can cancel out the health benefits of regular exercise. Treadmill desks let workers walk at 1-2 mph, burning as much as 100 calories per hour. The benefits for employees, Ball said, include weight loss, improved posture, less back stress, better focus, reduced mental stress and anxiety, and enhanced job satisfaction.
"Active employees are healthy employees," he said. "We've got to get people up and moving." Employers benefit as well, Ball said, through lower employee health care costs, improved morale and productivity, and reduced sick days and absenteeism. He and other faculty in MU's College of Human Environmental Sciences (HES) think it's important to "practice what you preach," and say the desks are a way to open conversations about health and exercise.
They also provide opportunities for HES staff to be role models of physical fitness and activity. Ball said the HES faculty plans to conduct research on how the treadmill desks affect long-term health and employee satisfaction. The treadmill portion of the device operates at 1-2 mph, slower than traditional home and gym treadmills. The desk portion rises by hydraulics, allowing workers to sit or stand. Commercial treadmill desks can cost up to $3,000, but vary greatly in price. Some people build their own desks to save money, but home treadmills have a shorter operating life because they don't operate efficiently at lower speeds.
Nikki Raedeke, director of the HES dietetics program, now uses her office chair for storage rather than sitting. She has walked 446 miles since Jan. 7, the equivalent of walking from St. Louis to Kansas City and back on Interstate 70. Her office holds a mix of business attire for meetings and sneakers and T-shirts for working at her treadmill desk. She says she has lost weight and gained energy from her workday walks, which have inspired her to eat healthier and exercise more at home. Low-impact walking on treadmill desks isn't a substitute for a complete exercise plan, Ball said. But for some busy people, the walk at work may be all the exercise they get. "Some activity is better than none. More is better than some. Too much is difficult to get," Ball said. Photos available for this release:
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